Champ Car Stars of Tomorrow Champions complete successful two-day Toyota Atlantic test with Team Rahal in South Carolina
KERSHAW, S.C. (December 11, 2003) - Despite some challenges from Mother Nature, 2003 Champ Car Stars of Tomorrow champions Bobby Wilson and Robbie Pecorari today completed a successful two-day test session with the Team Rahal Toyota Atlantic team.
In rainy conditions on Wednesday and chilly temperatures throughout the day on Thursday, each driver managed to complete nearly 150 miles at Carolina Motorsports Park. Lap times were not announced.
"I'm extremely impressed with both of them," said Team Rahal owner and Champ Car Stars of Tomorrow principal, Bobby Rahal. "Bobby, I thought, did a fantastic job, which I fully expected, and Robby I was very impressed with, considering the fact that he's 16 (years old) and has not had much time in cars at all, very little, in fact. He just took to it immediately. I think that just shows you that these guys have been in karting at super competitive levels for so long, for several years, that they get in a car-and yeah it's different-but they're prepared. It just, to me, gives absolute credence to the whole concept of a ladder system and how one leads into the other."
On Wednesday, the #24 Argent Mortgage Company Toyota/Swift-which was piloted by rookie Danica Patrick during the 2003 CART Toyota Atlantic Championship Presented by Yokohama season-was outfitted with Yokohama rain tires as each driver got acclimated at CMP's 0.988-mile East track layout. Wilson, 22, of Dousman, Wis. was the first driver to put the car through its paces on Wednesday morning, with the 16-year-old Pecorari of Aston, Pa. taking over the controls for the afternoon session.
The rains cleared up overnight and the drivers were greeted by ambient temperatures in the low-40's (Fahrenheit) as the order was swapped, with Pecorari taking the morning stint and Wilson slated for the afternoon. After both drivers turned in satisfactory performances on Wednesday, the drivers got the opportunity to drive the full, 2.235-mile road circuit on Thursday.
"We made changes and they went through the data, and they did everything as if they were going to do this full time," commented Rahal. "I think they got to feel and get a read on when they made a change, what happened to the car. I was very, very pleased with how the team really approached this in a very professional way. I think all the people who participated were very pleased with that. It was a great week and they did a super job. The car came back without a scratch on it, and the conditions weren't easy, yesterday being absolute monsoon conditions for a lot of the day, and yet they kept it on the island. They just did a great job. I don't think there's any question, you're going to hear their names for many years to come."
Wilson earned the test after claiming the 125cc ICC category championship on the strength of five national victories in Champ Car Stars of Tomorrow in addition to winning the non-points Grand Prix of Windsor. For his part, Wilson was extremely pleased with the opportunity to taste the Toyota Atlantic machine.
"It was definitely a memorable experience, and put a spark in me to go out and really promote myself to use the Toyota Atlantic series as a stepping stone," Wilson said. I'm very interested. The car is just amazing. I'm very grateful that Mr. Rahal gave me the opportunity of testing it. It's an awesome package. Working with the engineers was fun, and it's a great experience. I'm extremely hungry. I mean, I really need to find some sponsorship, because I definitely want to be at that level. I hope to be there in a year or so."
Likewise, Pecorari was also energized by the experience after earning the test with by taking the 100cc ICA category Stars of Tomorrow title. Pecorari won the championship with five national race victories, including four wins in the season's first five events, and a total of eight podium finishes in nine races.
"The CART Stars put on a great program all year, with Bobby Rahal putting out the Atlantic test," Pecorari said. "With the first day in the rain and the second day in the dry, it's a great experience. You can figure out what the car does in the rain or dry. I mean, if me or Bobby make it to the top here, you know what to expect. It's been a great experience. The crew, the engineers, everyone, if you have a question, they'll answer it. Whatever you need to know, information-wise, anything on the track, shifting, whatever, everything you learn here applies, because pretty much any car it's the same mentality, you just have to carry it on. Any car experience is going to help, it doesn't really matter what car it's in."
Team Rahal's Toyota Atlantic engineers and mechanics provided support for the test, with Rahal and Patrick also on-hand to offer suggestions and feedback.
The CART Toyota Atlantic Championship Presented by Yokohama is North America's premier open-wheel development series. The series is noted for its long history of graduating its stars into CART Champ Car competition. Among the drivers who have graduated from Atlantic are current Champ Car competitors Jimmy Vasser, Patrick Carpentier, Alex Tagliani, Roberto Moreno, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Rodolfo Lavin, as well as former Champ Car champions Bobby Rahal, Danny Sullivan, Michael Andretti and Jacques Villeneuve.
The Champ Car Stars of Tomorrow represents both the pinnacle series in the sport of kart racing and the first step to a career in motorsports. As the initial step in the Championship Auto Racing Teams Driver Development Ladder System, Stars gives racers the chance to move onward, ultimately to driving a Champ Car. Likewise, the racers in the Stars of Tomorrow series are among the most talented, promising upcoming drivers, and warrant attention in their own right.
Team Rahal is now in its second decade as one of the leading open-wheel racing teams in North America. Based in Hilliard, Ohio, the team is co-owned by three-time CART champion and 1986 Indianapolis 500 winner Bobby Rahal and CBS LATE SHOW host David Letterman. Currently the team campaigns cars in the Indy Racing League's IndyCar Series, the Bridgestone presents the Champ Car World Series powered by Ford, and the Toyota Atlantic Championship.